Pubdate: Mon, 1 Jun 2009
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2009 Times Colonist
Author: Richard Watts, Times Colonist
Cited: Harm Reduction Victoria
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)
Bookmark: (Needle Exchange)


Hypodermic needles are being handed out to drug users within sight of
a Victoria elementary school in violation of a policy that stipulates
syringes should not be distributed near schools or daycare centres.

A group calling itself Harm Reduction Victoria launched yesterday what
it calls a "guerrilla needle exchange" downtown, in the 900 block of
Pandora Avenue. It's kitty-corner to St. Andrew's School at 1002
Pandora Ave., right in the middle of a so-called "no-go zone," an area
that's been off-limits for needle distribution for about a year.

The move was announced at a march by about 100 people yesterday
afternoon to demand a fixed-site needle exchange.

Late yesterday afternoon, Kim Toombs of Harm Reduction Victoria said
needles obtained from a mobile needle service had been distributed in
the area, adding the group would continue to hand out syringes on
Pandora Avenue from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. daily. "It's going to take a
while before people catch on [the needle-distribution site] is even

She and other people who identified themselves as part of Harm
Reduction Victoria, most of whom said they were students or
researchers at the University of Victoria, said the no-go zone results
in a denial of clean syringes, which they see as a health-care service
to drug users who hang out in the area.

The area, roughly defined by the group as Blanshard to Chambers and
Balmoral to Yates streets, became off-limits to needle distribution as
a result of a code of conduct developed last year by a group called
the Needle Exchange Advisory Committee. It included representatives of
AIDS Vancouver Island, city hall, community groups, police and the
Vancouver Island Health Authority.

That code of conduct says needles should not be handed out near
schools, daycare centres or open businesses.

The policy was developed after the health authority attempted to
install a permanent needle exchange in the old St. John Ambulance
Building at nearby 941 Pandora Ave.

The plan was dropped in March 2008 after parents of children at St.
Andrews and nearby downtown residents expressed horror at the notion
of a needle exchange, particularly given the experience of the last
permanent exchange, on Cormorant Street.

That facility ran for about six years until it was shut down in May
2008. The landlord evicted the exchange after neighbours repeatedly
complained about discarded needles littering the ground, bloody refuse
and other droppings like condoms and human excrement.

Since then, the health authority has contracted AIDS Vancouver Island
to operate a mobile service distributing needles, although critics say
drug users are increasingly re-using needles because of a lack of
ready access.

Jocelyn Stanton, spokeswoman for the authority, said she couldn't
comment on what rally organizers called the guerrilla needle exchange,
but said VIHA thinks one or more fixed needle exchanges would be
preferable to the mobile service.

Stanton said consultation is ongoing in an effort to find a site.
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake